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Friday, February 27, 2015

Interview for a Job: How to Handle It...(Part - I)

A job interview is an important step in the selection process of a right person by the organization. It is a platform where the employer and prospective employee meet to exchange information, test each other’s suitability and negotiate on the terms of employment. A job interview has a dual purpose: one, it enables the organization to find the best person available for the job by determining whether the applicant and the organization are a good match; and two, it helps the applicant to find the job best suited to his/her goals and capabilities.
An interview can be described as a step-by-step process through which an interviewer imaginatively enters into the inner life of a candidate—indeed a stranger—to assess his/her suitability for a job. The first stage is known as introduction, wherein both the candidate and the interviewer make an effort to know each other. This helps both of them to establish a rapport between themselves. The second stage is related to the candidate’s past experiences and hobbies, enquiring of which makes the candidate a little more comfortable in answering the questions with more ease, and that indeed makes the candidate ready for facing tougher questions. And the third stage—the crucial stage—is related to assessment of general awareness and subject expertise of the candidate.

Types of Interviews
In general, job interviews can be structured, unstructured, telephonic, panel, group, or personal interviews or even stress interviews. Similarly, the number of interviews in a particular selection process may range from one-time interview to several levels or rounds of interviews. Traditionally, personal interviews are being conducted as an addition to other selection methods like written tests, presentations, group discussions, physical tests, etc. 

Of late, corporations are resorting to multiple rounds of interviews, particularly, for entry-level jobs. Normally, there could be three levels: one, Preliminary Interview; two, Core Interview; and, three, Final Interview. In the Preliminary Interview, the employer basically screens a candidate based on his/her basic qualifications, skills and experiences. Sometimes, Preliminary Interviews could as well be conducted through telephones. Once the candidate is found suitable in the preliminary round, he/she will move up to the next level. At the second stage, the employer makes an all-round assessment of the candidate, including his personality, special skills and level of professional expertise, preferably by a panel of interviewers from different departments. In the Final Interview, the employer’s general objective will be to offer the job to the candidate and negotiate the terms of employment contract.

Telephonic Interview

A telephone interview is designed to narrow down the list of candidates for personal interview. It is something like a trial run for the face-to-face interview. If it is arranged by a recruiter or a search firm, there is a fair chance of one knowing when the interview is likely to take place. It is best to happen that way, for it gives space to ready oneself for the interview confidently.

Alternatively, one may also get a call totally “out of the blue” and one might even be interviewed right then and there. In such a situation, it is preferable to ask for a minute or two to gather yourself, and if they agree, covering up the voice piece on the phone, make use of the time to get the CV sent for this particular job in hand, take two or three deep breaths, and then call them to continue. 

Indeed, it is always desirable to have a quiet space in the house for attending to such interviews. Here, one should bear in mind that like in any other interview, one has to market himself in the telephone interview too. 

One has to keep a pen and pad in hand ready to take notes wherever warranted for future reference and listen to the questions being asked attentively without interrupting them. One must try to be professional in his/her tone. The following may help one in bettering one’s performance:
  • Be enthusiastic and smile—smile indeed will actually come across one’s tone of voice.
  • Talking into the phone standing up can make one’s voice sound stronger and also make one sound more professional.
  • Be brief in answers, but at the same time be thorough and keep up one’s end of the conversation; importantly, never to ramble.
  • Speak directly into the telephone, and do not engage in smoking, eating, or chewing gum while talking.
  • Use the interviewer’s name occasionally and likewise refer to the company by name a few times—it exhibits one’s active involvement in the proceedings.
Whenever you feel that here is an opportunity to say something interesting about yourself or about the company, you should feel free to air it—say for instance, if one hears something about the company or position being said by the interviewer that is particularly interesting or attractive, one can let out a remark like, “That sounds exciting”; “I worked on a very similar project in my last job and enjoyed it”, for they exhibit one’s interest in the position and the company, and this might enhance one’s chances of being invited to the face-to-face interview.

Towards the end, the deadly salary question might crop up for an answer, for it enables a company to easily screen one out on that score. Therefore, it is ideal to try to avoid the salary topic wherever possible or if insisted, one may try to wriggle out of it by commenting: “At this point I would really like to meet in person to find out even more about the position. Once we know we are the right fit for each other, I shall then gladly discuss the salary.”  

In any case, one should always be ready with a salary range, for some interviewers are pretty savvy for a figure. Sometimes, they might enquire about one’s present earnings. So, one must be ready with the right figure but while revealing it one might as well say, “If we are the right fit, which I think we might be, I am sure we can work out a mutually agreeable figure.”
As the interview sounds like wrapping up, one might as well ask for a date to meet personally or might show one’s interest in the job by saying: “Well, I am excited. This sounds like a great position and I know I could step in and contribute. I’d really like a chance to sit down with you in person and discuss this even further. When could we meet for an interview?” That clearly leaves an impression that you’re interested.

Telephone interviews being no way different from face-to-face interviews, one must demonstrate in his/her conversation energy, enthusiasm, and commitment to do the job, for that alone places one above the rest.

Group Discussions

Of late, companies have started conducting group discussions after written test to gauge the personality traits of the prospective candidates for selection. Group discussion is a process in which participants exchange ideas and debate on the opinions exchanged. Usually, companies give a topic or a situation to a group of 8-10 candidates, give them a few minutes’ time to think over it, and then ask them to discuss it among themselves for about 15-20 min. As the discussions progress, a panel of selectors assess the candidates to see if they possess the kind of personality traits that they desire to have in their employees.

It is essentially used to test a candidate’s general awareness—hold on the topic being discussed, communication skills, group dynamics and leadership qualities.
 Content: Represents the knowledge that the candidate has about the subject being discussed and importantly his ability to present his/her ideas in a logical order. It also helps to assess a candidate’s reasoning capacity and his overall disposition.
 Communication Skills: In a group discussion, communication predominantly becomes a two-way process—one has to simultaneously play the role of ‘sender’ and ‘receiver’ of the information. Unless one carefully listens to what the other member is saying, he/she cannot carry forward the discussions logically—discussion becomes disjointed. But unfortunately, what usually happens in group discussions is: while the other member is talking, the next man keeps himself engaged in structuring his line of presentation. This well reflects in what one says when his/her turn comes— it would be a jump into a new world or it may simply become a repetition for he/she has not heard what the others already said.
 Group Dynamics: Discussion among the peers enables the interviewer to assess the behavior of a candidate—whether one is an energetic team-player or a solo and dominant or withdrawn type. It also helps the interviewer to assess whether a candidate is assertive/aggressive/submissive in his orientation towards group members and if he/she is capable of influencing the group.
  Leadership Skills: There are people who have a flair for assuming leadership role in any given situation. In a group discussion, such people tend to take early initiative to give a direction—initiate discussion paving the way for the group to carry forward the discussion logically and importantly, smoothly. A good leader encourages others to express their views and channels the discussion to a rational end.

Skills that matter most in group discussion:
  • Ability to communicate with others without ruffling their feelings.
  • Listening skills.
  • Open-mindedness.
  • Analytical skills.
  • Ability to think on one’s feet.
  • Confidence to lead a discussion.
  • Ability to play a team-member role.
  • Leadership and decision-making skills.

Important do’s and don’ts:
  • Maintain Eye Contact While Speaking: Do not look at the evaluators only. While speaking, keep eye contact with team members.
  • Display Right Body Language: The panelists observe the way you sit and react in the course of the discussion. Body gestures are very important, because your body language says a lot about you. In a GD, sit straight and avoid leaning back on to the chair or knocking the table with pen or your fingers.
  • Initiate the Discussion: Initiating the discussion is a big bonus. But speaking without proper subject knowledge creates a bad impression. So, one should know where he/she would be able to lead a discussion and where not.
  • Allow Others to Speak: Do not interrupt others while they are speaking, for it would not speak well of a candidate to snatch others’ chance. Instead if intervention is felt necessary, he/she should wait for his/her turn and express his/her views in a matter-of-fact style, without showing any aggressiveness.
  • Treat Everyone with Respect: There should be no name-calling and emotional outbursts. No accusations to be made. Similarly, no arguments should be directed at any member. Disagreements should be presented in a respectful way. No ridiculing.
  • Attempt to Bring the Discussion on Track: If discussion is getting sidetracked, it will be good to get it back on track for any participant.
  • Display a Positive Attitude: Be confident, but it doesn’t mean bulldoze other members. Keep a positive body language. Show interest in the discussion. No raising of voice even when conveying disagreement with an opinion. Listen to others and don’t dismiss others’ point of view, instead it makes great sense to work for a common ground.
  • Remember In-Depth Analysis Is Not What Is Expected: Remember, basic subject analysis is sufficient. For, what is examined is how logical one is in his/her presentation and how he/she conducts himself/herself so as to keep the discussion going on meaningfully. So, focus must be on being precise and to the point in articulation and being pleasant in one’s disposition towards group members. 
To be continued


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